U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - Afghanistan

Afghanistan continued its progress toward building a stable and democratic government, despite a strong Taliban offensive and an increase in suicide bombings and attacks on soft targets throughout the country. Programs designed to combat the Taliban and other lawlessness were the principal focus of the Afghan government and international community.

At year's end, the Program for Strengthening Peace and Reconciliation (PTS), which worked to reconcile Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) members, had eleven regional offices, and over 2,500 former Taliban fighters and other insurgents had left the battlefield and joined the program. Plans were underway to strengthen and expand PTS, provided sufficient funding was available. The Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program processed more than 63,000 former combatants in 2005, and 380 in 2006, as the program successfully wound down in June. The Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) began work in June 2005 vetting parliamentary candidates to ensure they had no ties to illegal armed groups (IAGs). The DIAG disqualified a number of candidates, using the program more as an effort to push compliance rather than to punish individuals for past and present actions. The program's second phase began in early 2006, and undertook a province-by-province effort to identify and remove government officials with links to IAGS and disband the most notorious IAGs. Progress has been slow because of a lack of government enforcement of mandatory compliance and the unwillingness of many to disarm given the security situation.

Coalition Forces, in particular the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-76, conducted a series of sub-campaigns during 2006. These actions utilized effective counterinsurgency means and methods, including the simultaneous use of kinetic (air and ground forces) and non-kinetic means to counter terrorism, extremism, and anti-government forces. This regional strategy, focusing on the south and east, destroyed many anti-government forces and attempted to restore the flow of reconstruction and development. Coalition Forces killed over 2,000 anti-government forces and provided hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction and development aid.

Increasingly, the rapidly professionalizing Afghan National Army (ANA), with more than 31,000 personnel trained and equipped, and to a lesser extent the Afghan National Police (ANP), with 61,500 trained and equipped, have taken the lead in counterterrorism operations and cooperated closely with the U.S. Afghan security forces have arrested presumed terrorists, disrupted several IED cells, and prevented many bombings, particularly in Kabul.

Despite this progress, the Taliban-led insurgency remained a capable and resilient threat to stability, particularly in the Pashtun south and east. Although the insurgency absorbed heavy combat losses, its funding and ability to recruit foot soldiers from its core base of rural Pashtuns remained undiminished. This was due in part to aggressive Taliban propaganda. Taliban information operations have grown increasingly sophisticated. Seemingly reliable streams of Taliban financing from various sources, including collusion with narcotraffickers responsible for 92 percent of the world's opium supply, as well as safe haven in the FATA across the border in Pakistan, have allowed the insurgency to strengthen its military and technical capabilities.

Afghanistan saw an increasing number of violent incidents during 2006. More than 1,400 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks during the year. The use of IEDs and suicide bombings in Afghanistan increased fourfold. Militants launched approximately 130 suicide attacks this year. Insurgents targeted provincial governors, NGOs, women's affairs officials, and ministry buildings and officials during the year. Insurgents increased their use of IEDs and suicide attacks against Coalition Forces, NATO/ISAF, Afghan National Security Forces, and Government of Afghanistan targets, while maintaining a steady level of direct and indirect fire attacks against these same forces.

Overall attacks against non-combatants (government officials, civilians, religious figures, teachers, and students) appeared to increase, and international NGOs, UN workers, and recipients of NGO assistance were attacked on approximately 57 occasions. Thirty-one NGO staff members were killed compared to 33 in 2005 and 23 in 2004. Insurgents targeted Provisional Reconstruction Teams and construction crews in a possible effort to hamper reconstruction and drive the international assistance community out of Afghanistan.

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